Monday, 30 April 2012

definition of an englishman

Last week's quote from my WHSmith diary, by Philip Guedalla (no, me neither, even WHS spelt his name wrongly, some Googling revealed; 1889-1944):
'An Englishman is a man who lives on an island in the North Sea governed by Scotsmen.'

just boris quotes part 1

Some quotes and notes from Just Boris, by Sonia Purnell.

[What Sonia told his wife-to-be Marina in 1992, when Sonia was Boris's No2 in the Telegraph's Brussels bureau, when Marina asked her what she really thought of Boris] Emboldened by the intimacy of a large, jolly crowd, I delivered a verdict rather more candid than careful, but one I still hold to this day. 'I think he is the most ruthless, ambitious person I have ever met.' In the half-light she looked rather shocked - it was not then the prevailing view. Most thought of him as a charming, if shambolic hack defined by a love of classical civilisations and a problem with detail. But working with him so closely, I had observed that under a well-cultivated veneer of disorganisation lay not so much a streak of aspiration as a torrent of almost frightening focus and drive. (introduction, p4)

Chapter 1 is the chapter that makes you feel sorry for Boris, covering his childhood and his monstrous father Stanley. It reveals he was seriously deaf as a child, and you do get that sense of the self-contained, inner world of isolation sometimes. He was for a time in Primrose Hill Primary School. 'It was the same establishment attended by the future Labour leader Ed Milliband (who, being five years his junior, says he has no recollection of Boris) and his elder brother David (a year younger and so doubtless aware of Boris as a playground presence, but unwilling to discuss his memories). Astonishingly, Boris has managed to attend the same schools as both major party leaders in place in 2011. It is also remarkable that one state primary should have produced three prominent politicians in such a short space of time.' (chapter 1, p30)

Chapter 2 covers Eton. Quotes housemaster David Guilford's positive memories of Boris, then says: 'This crystal-clear recollection more than three decades on is all the more striking considering some of the other students Guilford encountered in his time. "I also taught David Cameron, but I don't remember him at all - he must just have done what he was told." Another master - Tim Connor - actually denied having taught Cameron, having no recollection of him. Presented with concrete evidence that he had indeed taken the future Prime Minister in the Upper Sixth, a dumbfounded Connor admitted it was still a "complete blank." '  (chapter 2, p47) Another teacher, headmaster Eric Anderson, formerly Tony Blair's housemaster at Fettes, also thought well of him: 'Anthony Howard remembers going to speak at Eton after Boris had left and asking Anderson: "Who is the most interesting - rather than the cleverest - pupil you've ever had?" He replied: "Without a doubt, Boris Johnson." And according to Anderson: "He's a very memorable person. Anyone who's spent an hour with Boris never forgets it. All I have to say to you about him is good." Privately, however, a different message sometimes emerges from the Etonian ranks, with grumbles that despite his undoubted cleverness and panache, Boris was too much of a "showman" to tackle anything really serious.' (p57)

Saturday, 28 April 2012

george galloway's religious beliefs

George Galloway has denied claims made by Jemima Khan that he converted to Islam in a ceremony in London 10 years ago. However, he does not deny he is a Muslim. Which makes an interview he gave to the Spectator six years ago, on April 14 2006, all the more intriguing. The Spectator asked prominent individuals whether they thought Jesus really did rise from the dead. Among them was Galloway, who replied emphatically in the affirmative: “Yes, I believe in the Resurrection,” said Galloway, now the Respect MP for Bradford West with a huge Muslim following. “I believe God restored the life of Jesus of Nazareth and took him to his bosom. The example of suffering and sacrifice followed by vindication is central to my religious belief.”
- Londoner's Diary, Evening Standard, 27 April

Friday, 27 April 2012

guardian animation of mayoral election

The Guardian animates London’s Mayoral election: Big applause to The Guardian’s Paul Owen for the video below which nicely sums up this year’s underwhelming and policy-lite Mayor of London elections.
- Mayorwatch blog, 27 April

furry boots comfy?

This is surely an apocryphal story, and I'm sure I've heard a similar joke before, but on the R4 News Quiz last year Hugo Rifkind delivered it as a true story which happened to a friend of his who moved with her husband up to Aberdeen. 'On his first day in his new office someone came up to him and said, "Furrybootscomfy?" And he genuinely said, "They're brogues."'

('Whereabouts do you come from?', obviously.)

private eye cover

The current Private Eye cover is very good (after the capping of tax relief on big charitable donations). Headed 'Comic Tax Relief: Doing Crazy Things For Charity!' Photo of John Bishop, David Cameron and David Walliams. John says, 'I did a triathlon'; David W says, 'I swam the Thames'; David C says, 'I made George Osborne chancellor'

And I didn't know until now that there was a full searchable set of Private Eye covers on the Private Eye website.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

danish drama

An interesting item in this week's Radio Times on Danish drama, on the back of another Scandinavian detective series, The Bridge, starting. Extract:
'DR [the Danish national broadcaster, which produced The Killing and The Bridge] is remarkably similar to the BBC: both are public service broadcasters supported via a licence fee, created back in the 1920s. DR's licence fee is higher, at around £250 per household, but raised from a much smaller population. Without advertising breaks, it makes hour-long drama, without injecting cliffhangers.
But DR raises only an eighth of the UK licence fee total and can afford only a tiny amount of original drama, perhaps one big series annually: ten episodes are the usual length. The drama it backs are sagas, for the dark winter Sunday nights. They take a gamble a year. So, there are no undiscovered gems or rich archives. Remarkably, what we see here on BBC4 is all they make. It is an example of how doing less can be more. ...
... But DR sets clear rules. Dramas must be contemporary, original, not a remake of classic novels. They must depict and say something penetrating about Danish society, reflecting, for example, the strong influence of career women, as with Borgen's Brigitte Nyborg, the fictional prime minister. The creators/writers are given overall power, but are set challenging audience targets. They're expected to take time mulling over plots Then episodes are filmed in sequence.
The result is "deliberate methodical storytelling" said The New York Times correctly.'

product placement

The film preview section of this week's Radio Times says that The African Queen was the first Hollywood film to use product placement; it was Gordon's gin.

frank skinner stories

On the podcast of his Absolute radio show last year, Frank Skinner said that at one point he was good friends with Alison Moyet - going out with a mutual friend - and they used to go round Alison's house, where there was a big pile of cuddly toys, their being kids in the house, and they played a brilliant game where you had to pick a cuddly toy and then make the same facial expression, while holding it up beside your face.

Another story he told last year (arising out of the fact that when Stuart Pearce played under Brian Clough, obviously quite a long time ago, he used to advertise as an electrician in the programme) was how a West Brom player, Willie Johnston, was taking a corner, got into a conversation with someone in the crowd, and ended up selling him his shed.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

just boris

Read Sonia Purnell's very good biog of Boris Johnson, Just Boris, over the last few weeks in copy from the library. Plan to post some quotes, but here are the cover quotes for starters (I haven't given all the attributions):
'Hair-raisingly candid'
'A rollicking narrative'
'If you want the full Johnson experience, do read Just Boris'
'Sonia must have had huge fun writing this wonderful book. The only person who won't be amused is Boris himself' (Michael Crick)
'Filled with gems ... will make uncomfortable reading for Boris'
'If Boris ever does run for the Tory leadership, thanks to Ms Purnell's flair and industry, we cannot say that we have not been warned' (Nick Wood, ConservativeHome)
'Brilliant and shattering'
'Whether you like Boris or loathe him, he is a class act and Sonia Purnell's excellent book is a must-read for those who want to understand this mystery wrapped in an enigma' (Jerry Hayes, Spectator)
'Sonia Purnell's Just Boris stood out as a critical, illuminating view of London's great blond egomaniac'
'Thoroughly researched and well-crafted ... If you want to know who and what Boris is, read Sonia Purnell's book'
'Exceptionally well-written'
'It's all here: Boris having his cake, eating it, and then having a bun'
'Portrays better than any predecessor the arrogance, opportunism and irresistible buffoonery of our most celebrated politician'
'Meticulous and quietly devastating'
'Total rubbish' (Stanley Johnson)

Saturday, 21 April 2012

kieran richardson's faith

Kieran Richardson, Sunderland Midfielder, Says He Is A Born-Again Christian - Huffington Post, 18 April

the atheist's guide to reality

The Atheist's Guide to Reality, By Alex Rosenberg - Independent, 18 April. Depressing review of book, or review of depressing book. Extract: He begins by rebranding atheism as "scientism" so as to better describe what atheists "do believe". First, an atheist has to understand the science, then accept its "irrefutably correct answers to the persistent questions". What is the nature of reality? What physics says it is. What is the purpose of the universe? There is none. What is the meaning of life? Ditto. Rosenberg's scientism is built on accepting well-established laws of physics as the basic description of reality. He argues that the physics tells us just about everything we need to know about how the universe works. We can extend this to chemistry and biology, and then, with an appeal to Darwinian processes, everything else. For Rosenberg, almost everything we think of as having inherent value or meaning, from morality to the idea of a self, does not. He wants us to let go of our many illusions, such as the concept of free will.

Friday, 20 April 2012

dick france obituary

Canon Dick France, who has died aged 73, was among the foremost New Testament scholars of his day and Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, from 1989 until 1995. - Telegraph, 17 April

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

brian wilson: no political satire please, we’re scottish

Brian Wilson: No political satire please, we’re Scottish.
Alex Salmond’s indignation over the Economist’s front page highlights a serious national deficiency. Try as I might, I just cannot bring myself to feel insulted by the Outer Hebrides being dubbed “Outer Cash” (a little too close to the truth for comfort) or Grampian becoming “Grumpian” (ditto). I know that this exposes me to the jeopardy of being branded unpatriotic, heaven forfend, since our First Minister has decreed that the front cover of the Economist, which carried a spoof map of Scotland, was “insulting to every single community north of the Border”.
- Scotsman, 18 April

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

oh, samantha

Journalist Samantha Brick ridiculed on Twitter for complaining she is too pretty. A “delusional” journalist has provoked global ridicule after writing an article entitled “there are downsides to looking this pretty”.
- Telegraph, 3 April

charlie brooker writes cheerful column

For one week only, I'm allowed to say it: I get babies. Call me dense or cold or both, but I wasn't anticipating the wave of euphoria I'm experiencing now that I've become a father
- Charlie Brooker, Guardian, 1 April

the london mayoral election options explained

In twenty days, London elects its new Mayor. They'll set our taxes, run our police, coordinate our transport and greet the world at the start of the Olympics. And, knowing London, we'll elect the wrong candidate.

There is a serious risk that will win the Mayoral Election. And that would be awful. I cannot believe that so many Londoners are willing to give their vote to this charlatan. He's nothing but an idiot, a slimy self-interested caricature, out of touch with the wider world. His views on the major issues of the day are little short of laughable, and yet somehow he commands the devotion of millions. Whenever you see his face on the TV you want to cringe, whenever you hear him speak you want to scream, and whenever you read his policies you want to argue with every word. The amount of tax he pays makes my eyes water, and my blood boil. His staff are nothing but lickspittle cronies, using public money to further their perverse agendas. He'll do nothing for the Londoners who really matter, preferring instead to prioritise his own kind at the expense of the rest of us. Imagine four years with this bloke at the helm of the capital - the damage they could do doesn't bear thinking about. And yet people are sleepwalking into voting for this madman because they're fixated on personality rather than policies. Transport, crime, employment - these are the battlegrounds on which the election should be fought, not who has the best soundbite and who last swore at who. Surely it's obvious to anyone who stops and thinks about the issues how dangerous his victory would be. His past record speaks for itself, but does London really have so short a collective memory? If this is the best hope that the Mayoral election can throw up, God help us all.

But there is a serious risk that won't win the Mayoral Election. And that would be awful. I cannot believe that so few Londoners are planning to give their vote to this gentleman. He's a master politician, a charismatic but humble statesman, completely in touch with the wider world. His views on the major issues of the day are little short of laudable, and yet somehow he fails to command the devotion of millions. Whenever you see his face on the TV you want to smile, whenever you hear him speak you want to cheer, and whenever you read his policies you want to agree with every word. The amount of tax he pays is only fair, given his personal circumstances. His staff are a talented bunch, allocating our taxes to maximise value for money. He'll work tirelessly for the Londoners who really matter, rather than narrowing his focus to prioritise minorities and vested interests. Imagine four years with this bloke at the helm of the capital - the changes they could bring about would be inspirational. And yet people are sleepwalking into voting for the other bloke because they're fixated on personality rather than policies. Transport, crime, employment - these are the battlegrounds on which the election should be fought, not who has the best soundbite and who last swore at who. Surely it's obvious to anyone who stops and thinks about the issues how progressive his victory would be. His opponent's past record speaks for itself, but does London really have so short a collective memory? If this is the best hope that the Mayoral election can throw up, God help us all.
- Diamond Geezer blog, 13 April

shard's spire now in place on europe's tallest building

Shard's spire now in place on Europe's tallest building: he highest part of what will become Europe's tallest inhabited building has been lifted into place in London. The Shard near to London Bridge, in Southwark, now reaches 310m (1,016ft) high. The final piece of steel - a spire weighing about 500 tonnes which is 66m tall - was craned into place at the top of the building earlier. Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, the south London skyscraper is made up of 87 storeys. The UK's highest crane moved the spire into place. The spire alone is made up of 800 separate pieces of steel. [continues]
- BBC, 30 March. I thought it was going to come to a point, but apparently what it looks like now is the finished look, though still work to be done.

london mayoral election 2008: how the city voted, mapped

London mayoral election 2008: how the city voted, mapped. Who voted for Boris in 2008? Where was Labour's vote strongest? This map from Factmint shows how votes were distributed across the wards that make up the city. The detail means that patterns of voting emerge: from the BNP votes in the Essex boroughs, through to the distribution of Green party votes in 2008. What does it tell us about how London will vote in 2012? Use the dropdown menu to see how first and second preferences compare - and how each party fared
- Guardian datablog, 12 April

Monday, 16 April 2012

giles fraser is coming to our patch

Former canon of St Paul's appointed parish priest at inner-city church
Giles Fraser, who quit cathedral post over Occupy row, gets new job at St Mary's Newington in south London
- Guardian, 1 April. He's coming to St Mary Newington, where our local Brownies used to meet and is between here and Kennington tube. I wasn't impressed by his performance at St Paul's, and I almost never like his very liberal columns in the Guardian.

Friday, 13 April 2012

anna pavlova quote

Anna Pavlova quote from my WHSmith diary: 'An artist should know all about love and learn to live without it.'